Sean Suiter's widow: His death is a 'murder ... being covered up'

The widow of Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter is rejecting the findings of an independent review panel that determined her husband took his own life.

“I have the same views and thoughts as the majority of the community, and that is, my husband did not commit suicide,” Nicole Suiter said in her first public comments since his November death. “I will not accept the untimely death of Sean as nothing other than a murder, which is being covered up for reasons unbeknownst to me or my family.”

“Sean did not deserve to die in this manner, and no one deserves to get away with this.”

The review panel released its report Tuesday, concluding that Sean Suiter staged a suicide to appear like a murder. They said the scenario was the only option supported by the evidence, which they detailed in a 200-plus-page report.

“The totality of the evidence builds a compelling case that the conclusion is very well supported,” board chair James “Chips” Stewart said at a news conference earlier Wednesday.

Key to the board’s findings is their conclusion that Suiter likely felt he was a target of the Gun Trace Task Force corruption investigation. His death occurred the day before he was set to appear with limited immunity as a witness before a federal grand jury. The father of five reportedly had asked FBI agents whether he was going to lose his job.

Defense attorney Jeremy Eldridge, who Sean Suiter had retained, said he would not reveal his interactions with the detective, citing attorney-client privilege. But he blasted the review board, saying members had “selectively chosen” partial information that they were able to glean from Sean Suiter’s cellphone and other sources to paint a picture of a detective worried about his legal future.

“Sean’s last moments are being painted without any facts or evidence, and only assumption, without ever taking care to even attempt to interview his attorney, his wife, any of his [Police Department] partners, or anybody who was close to him in those moments,” Eldridge said.

Nicole Suiter revealed Wednesday that her husband had not informed her of the grand jury proceedings.

“I feel like he didn’t have nothing to worry about — wasn’t nothing to tell me,” she said.

The review board’s narrative of the day leading up to Suiter’s death includes him communicating with Eldridge about a planned meeting at 5 p.m. to go over his testimony. He was fatally shot just after 4:30 p.m., after telling his partner he believed he saw someone in a vacant lot and wanted to investigate.

“Time was running out,” the board wrote in its report. “Suiter’s futile searches may have signaled a quiet desperation before a final, tragic decision.”

The board said it believes Suiter picked a junior detective to accompany him to the 900 block of Bennett Place, sent the detective out of view and darted into the lot. There, they say, he fired two shots into the air before shooting himself behind the ear. The partner said he saw Suiter’s body either fall or just after it had fallen, with gunsmoke in the air and no suspect in sight. Suiter’s gun, which the board said has been conclusively determined to have fired the fatal shot, was found under his body.

Stewart, a law enforcement consultant who has worked on two previous reviews of controversial Baltimore Police cases since 2011, said that the board’s findings were unanimous among its seven members, which included two retired Baltimore Police homicide detectives and law enforcement officials from out of state.

James “Chip” Coldren Jr., the board’s co-chair, said that despite the report’s conclusions, the board did not try to ascertain Sean Suiter’s psychological state.

“Lord knows what was going on in his mind,” Coldren said. “We can try as hard as we want. We'll never know everything. The facts we found and we discovered brought us to this conclusion.”

Nicole Suiter said she had talked to her husband less than an hour before his death. She said he was in a “great mood, happy spirit,” and that they joked about a video she had recorded of him dancing.

“Sean asked me what time I got off — I said 10,” she said. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll wait up for you, since I fell asleep on you last night.’”

Eldridge maintained that he couldn’t reveal his deliberations with Sean Suiter, but said the board was putting too much emphasis on their 5 p.m. meeting the day of his death.

“Saying there was a ‘final decision’ that needed to be made at 5 p.m. — that creates this exigency that supports this notion that he would commit suicide — is a farce,” Eldridge said. “Because there simply was no decision to be made.”

Eldridge, a former prosecutor, said some of the findings used “junk science” that wouldn’t pass muster in a courtroom.

“This is a ruse to give the city closure, and to pull the wool over the city’s eyes about what happened so they’re not worried there’s a killer on the loose,” Eldridge said of the report.

Nicole Suiter met her husband 17 years ago on a blind date. She said he is “deeply missed in my home.”

“We look out the window, see his car out there, thinking he’s coming through the door,” she said.

She has tried to shield their youngest child from the controversy around the case. “But she’s on social media,” she said.

The medical examiner’s office has said it may revisit its official determination that Suiter’s death was a homicide. And that could affect benefits paid out to his family. Duane Stone, a York, Pa., estate attorney retained by Nicole Suiter, said “some benefits have been received; some benefits have not.”

“This is so outside the realm of normalcy,” Stone said. “I hope there’s honor in Baltimore City, and I hope they … will still take care of the widow and be done.”

Nicole Suiter said she was not speaking out as a “heartbroken widow” but as “an aware individual who has evaluated every piece of evidence that has been shown to me, and with the knowledge that much evidence has not been presented, as well as inconsistencies as I have been told.”

“I do not condone violence or war, but I will openly stand with protesters from Baltimore City, around the world, to fight for justice,” she said.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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